Grey, Green, Gold

Uriel Orlow2015/2016

EVA International

EVA International
Limerick, Ireland

Uriel Orlow (b. 1973, Zurich) is a Reader in Fine Art at Westminster University, London, Visiting Professor at Royal College of Art, London, and Visiting Artist at University of the Arts, Zurich.
The installation Grey, Green, Gold (2015) comprises a concrete plinth with a loupe and a seed, a slide projection, photographs, and a wallpaper image. The work refers to the following story: Nelson Mandela and his co-accused ANC comrades from the Rivonia Trial were imprisoned in a special section for political prisoners at Robben Island prison, off the Atlantic coast in Cape Town, for eighteen years from 1964 to 1982. In the prison, they established a garden that played an important role during their time there. It helped to hide the manuscript of Mandela’s biography, which was eventually published under the title Long Walk to Freedom in 1995.
In the 1960s, rare yellow crane flowers were found at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town. These flowers of South African origin are usually orange in colour. A process of selective breeding was started, pollinating yellow flowers by hand with each other. It took almost twenty years to build up a stock of yellow crane flower seeds – and this coincided with the time Mandela spent in prison. In 1994, after Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, the flower was renamed ‘Mandela’s Gold’.
As Orlow once explained about the work: ‘A lot of my work is about small events or forgotten, invisible sites that obliquely refer to larger historical contexts. I don’t feel that I chose those stories or places but rather that they chose me. And more importantly it connects to something else. The seed refers to a new beginning, a new era after apartheid. But it also carries within it a reference to time; time spent in prison. And while Mandela was in prison, he and his fellow political prisoners created a garden in the prison courtyard. This garden played an important role. There is a connection between plants and history, plants as silent yet eloquent witnesses of history.’


  • Title: Grey, Green, Gold
  • Creator: Uriel Orlow
  • Date Created: 2015/2016
  • Location: Cleeve's Condensed Milk Factory, Limerick, Ireland
  • Physical Dimensions: dimensions variable
  • Medium: wallpaper, concrete plinth with loupe and seed slide projection, photographs on aluminium, framed photograph

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